Sunday, September 11, 2011

Where Were You?

My mom called me right after the first plane hit the Twin Towers.  I was ginormously pregnant with my first kid.  I was home, because I didn't work Tuesdays.  The phone rang and I was in the bathroom, wondering if hubby was going to answer it.  He didn't, so I waddled in there and grabbed it before the answering machine could.  "Turn on the news--it looks like a plane crashed into the World Trade Center."  "Seriously?  Okay, I'll call you later."  Turned on the TV in our bedroom as hubby was waking up.  I sat down on the foot of the bed, watching, not having any idea of the situation.  There was confusion, the cameras were turned to the building, and we could see the hole, the fire and smoke.  And then we saw the second plane hit.  All hell broke loose.  For real.  Strange how I remember every moment that morning until that second plane hit.  Then I think I went into a fog of shock, horror, fear, anger, disbelief, and even a little numbness.

The first feeling I remember having is fear for my little baby.  I was due in a month, and what kind of world was it going to be when my baby was born?  The rest of my pregnancy was completely filled with sadness and devastation.  The world was in chaos because of the attacks of September 11.  Our precious Aunt was in hospice, dying of breast cancer.  She was the sister of my mom-in-law, and another amazing, sparkly woman.  And the world was going to be less sparkly without her in it, and now this?  It was difficult most of the time, but I would concentrate on putting all the grief on a shelf for a while so that I could feel the joy I was supposed to feel about the impending birth of my first child.  I would feel guilty when I felt happiness, like most of our country.  And I would feel him in there, pushing around, getting his feet stuck in my ribs, innocent to it all.  He was my little beacon of hope.

My hubby is an air-traffic controller.  When the attacks happened his co-workers were tasked with the solemn chore of grounding every single plane in American airspace.  He still had to go to work, but there were no planes to control.  It must have been so surreal.  They put all these concrete barricades up all around the Center where he works, for security purposes.  Air Traffic Control Centers became a possible target of terrorists, and I had to let him drive there and be there every day.  He is not a New York Fireman.  He is not a New York Police Officer.  Or a rescue worker of any kind.  All of those families had to continue to let their loved ones continue to go to work, and I remember selfishly wishing I could keep my hubby home.

Going about my days seemed so different.  Television was stuck on coverage of the attacks.  No sitcoms, no football games, no commercials even.  I felt guilty about going to the grocery store.  I felt guilty that life had to go on.  The death toll was horrific.  It seemed like everyone in the country was affiliated with a lost soul that day.  I felt guilty that I wasn't.

My baby was born one month and one day after the attacks on September 11.  The news in my hospital room was still all about the attacks, but was now shared with news of possible Anthrax attacks.  Football had mostly started up again, but it was much more solemn, much more tentative.  There were signs of America healing.  But it was slow and careful.  I still felt hesitant about being joyful, and here I was, giving birth.  My mom-in-law and my hubby's Nana (his great-grandma) were among the visitors at the hospital awaiting the baby's arrival.  But their joy was tempered with deep grief, because Aunt J was getting worse, and it probably wouldn't be long until she moved on.  When the nurse brought the baby into my hospital room after getting him all cleaned up, I felt oddly detached--"oh my gosh, this isn't just the end of a pregnancy--I actually have to take a baby home with me now!"  And then feeling guilt about feeling like that.  From the hospital we drove immediately to Aunt J's home so she could see the baby.  Her children hadn't had kids yet, and we knew she wouldn't be able to hold her own grandbabies.  So we wanted her to feel like ours was hers.  A's first car trip was to her home, to be placed in her lap.  And she loved him!  That was one of my first joyous memories.  To see her hold him up to her face, to see her smile, and to see her whisper to him.  We went there every day after he was born for quite a while, so he could nap with her, so she could smell his sweet baby smell, so all the people who were spending time with Aunt J could also see the hope of the new life to help with their fear and sadness.

I didn't know anyone who lost their life in the attacks of September 11.  I don't know anyone who lost a loved one in the attacks of September 11.  But there were women who lost their husbands that day, who were pregnant with their babies.  I cannot imagine the horror they must have felt.  My fears and worries seem so insignificant and selfish compared to them.  But that day affected each of us individually, and our nation as a whole.  My first born is a blessing.  He was brought into this world in a dark time, just like all the babies during that time.  But they're all about to turn ten now.  And they are now the future of our country, and another reason to feel joy and hope.  He was born with such a huge amount of responsibility, and he's blissfully unaware.

I don't know when, but gradually I was able to feel pure joy again.  Laughter came easier.  Americans eased back into their lives, with our new sense of normal.  Partly because we all had families to care for, jobs to go to, homes to keep up.  But also because we are resilient, and humans were meant to be joyful. Today we are going over to the hubby's cousin's house today.  We are going to celebrate his 40th birthday by watching the Vikings.  We are going to cheer loudly, eat unhealthy food, and drink beer.  We are going to feel the happiness and comfort of just being together and being a family, and watching our kids play together.  I will pray for the families of September 11, and for our Country.  And I will feel unashamed joy as well.  It's a balance we've all had to learn.

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